Melbourne’s Sledgehammer Games has been helping make Call of Duty for more than a decade.
Their latest effort, the much-anticipated Call of Duty Vanguard, is finally in the hands of players around the world.
Everything from the music to the voices, gunshots and footsteps they’ll hear has been touched by Melbourne coder Darcy Sandall.
“I’ve been doing audio engineering for the last two years,” explained Sandall.
“That’s not actually any audio design, it’s all the code side – anything from tools, pipeline, engine – if it’s sound, it’s our responsibility.
Sandall joined Sledgehammer Games in January as part of the studio’s major Australian expansion after years in the indie scene, leading Samurai Punk.
“Sledgehammer reached out to me through a friend and asked if I’d be interested in potentially joining at some point. I think that was May in 2019,” said Sandall.
“We are now over 100 people in the Melbourne studio spread across Australia and NZ and still growing.”
“The main difference is just the scale of everything.”
“In AAA (triple-A), especially Call of Duty, everything is much larger: the amount of people on the team, the size of the overall projects, etc. You have a lot of very experienced, very talented and very passionate people all working on this very big project and you get plenty of support.”
With the exception of Sledgehammer games and Big Ant Studios, Australia’s claim to fame in gaming has been driven through independent developers.
Hollow Knight, Golf Story, Untitled Goose Game and more have found both commercial and critical success after the Global Financial Crisis shook confidence in larger local studios.
“A lot of people left the country to find work, or they left the industry, and the few that stayed behind made their own indie studios.”
“For a very long time, aside from a small handful of larger studios, that’s mainly what the games industry was in Australia.”
“But with the introduction of a large studio like Sledgehammer and the expansions of some of the smaller studios that already exist here it will be interesting how the indie scene changes in the next few years.”
“Australia’s internet needs to get better to be able to support the kind of work that we do. The pandemic made this even more obvious.”
“We are one studio who happens to have locations in different countries. We are just as responsible for the game as our studio in the States is.”
“I think we’ve already started to see changes, with a lot of Australian talent who were working overseas coming back home, and others who have left the industry also coming back.”
“Hopefully, we see more big studios coming here as well that will attract more talent too.”
“Personally, it’s been great working on Call of Duty. It’s given me the opportunity to do the kind of programming I’ve always wanted to, but isn’t common among smaller studios.
“Also working on something that millions of people around the world get to enjoy is very surreal and not an experience that a lot of people get.”
That attention is a double edged sword however.
Last month’s launch of Ricochet – Call of Duty’s big budget anti-cheat measures – was exposed and exploited within days. Updates are on the way later this year.
An undeniably frustrating bump in the road for publisher Activision Blizzard, as excitement was building for Vanguard’s new and improved multiplayer.
“My favorite mode is always Zombies because I’m terrible at competitive Call of Duty and it’s a little embarrassing to lose so badly when you have a dev tag next to your name,” joked Sandall.
“It’s awesome to have Treyarch back for this iteration.
“In multiplayer I’m super excited to see what players think of the new Combat Pacing, allowing them to turn up and down the intensity.
“It’s also going to be great to get our single player campaign in players hands, allowing them to witness World War II as they’ve never seen it before.”
As for what’s next for the growing Melbourne studio, Darcy Sandall was keeping a tight lid on the company’s plans.
“All I can say right now is that Sledgehammer Games is a multi-project studio.”
“Having a large AAA studio like Sledgehammer in Melbourne means more local opportunities for developers here, we don’t necessarily need to move overseas to work on large console titles anymore.
“Hopefully having Sledgehammer be here and be successful here will mean that other big studios will see Melbourne and Australia as a whole as an appealing place to come.”
Call of Duty Vanguard is out now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4 and PC.